Employees work at the Canadian Hospital Specialities (CHS) helping take dual COVID-19 testing swab kits and separating them into two units to help with swab capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic in Oakville, Ont., on Monday, June 8, 2020. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

The Nova Scotia government has announced a new online COVID-19 assessment tool it says will ensure Nova Scotians with symptoms get tested faster.

As of Thursday, instead of calling 811, Nova Scotians can do a self-assessment online. If the online assessment determines the person needs a COVID-19 test, the Nova Scotia Health Authority or IWK Health Centre will call them within 24 to 48 hours to book an appointment.

The province says this will reduce the wait time to be screened for testing from 12 hours to about 10 minutes.

"With school resuming and other parts of Canada seeing a second wave of COVID-19, we are increasing our capacity to test people with symptoms more quickly to make sure we detect and manage cases," said Premier Stephen McNeil in a news release.

"Our first step is a new online COVID-19 self-assessment tool, which will dramatically reduce the wait time for screening."

Before Thursday, Nova Scotians with COVID-19 symptoms could take an online test to determine if they should call 811 for further assessment. Patients would call 811 and then have to wait for a call back before making an appointment for a COVID-19 test.

With the new online assessment tool, Nova Scotians no longer have to call 811 for further assessment and to make an appointment. However, 811 will continue to take calls from people who cannot access the online tool, or who wish to speak to a nurse about their symptoms.

"It is reasonable to expect a resurgence of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia and the improvements we're making in our testing process will help us be prepared for it," said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang.

"We can minimize any resurgence by continuing to follow all the public health measures to keep COVID-19 out of our communities as much as possible."

The announcement comes after CTV News heard from several Nova Scotians who said they waited for hours on the phone with 811, and sometimes more than a week to get tested for COVID-19.

The province says 811 has received an average of 1,467 calls per day and served an average of 1,024 patients per day since the beginning of September.

NO NEW COVID-19 CASES

Nova Scotia reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. There remains two active cases identified in the province.

The province last identified a new case on Wednesday, involving a person who travelled outside Canada. They are located in the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s northern zone and are self-isolating.

Wednesday's new case was the first in the province in eight days.

Prior to Wednesday, the last confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported on Sept. 22 in the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s western zone. That person, an essential worker who travelled outside of Canada, remains in hospital in the intensive care unit.

870 TESTS

The Nova Scotia Health Authority labs completed 870 Nova Scotia tests on Wednesday. No new cases were identified.

To date, Nova Scotia has 95,244 negative test results.

There are 1,088 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, but 1,021 cases are considered resolved, and 65 people have died, leaving two active cases in the province.

There is still one person in hospital, in the intensive care unit, as a result of COVID-19.

The province's confirmed cases range in age from under 10 to over 90.

Sixty-one per cent of cases are female and 39 per cent are male.

There are cases confirmed across the province, but most have been identified in the central zone, which contains the Halifax Regional Municipality.

The provincial government says cumulative cases by zone may change as data is updated in Panorama, the province’s electronic information system.

The numbers reflect where a person lives, and not where their sample was collected.

  • western zone: 56 cases
  • central zone: 910 cases
  • northern zone: 68 cases
  • eastern zone: 54 cases

LIST OF SYMPTOMS

Anyone who experiences a new or worsening fever or cough, or two or more of the following new or worsening symptoms, is encouraged to take an online test or call 811 to determine if they need to be tested for COVID-19.

  • sore throat
  • headache
  • shortness of breath
  • runny nose/nasal congestion

SELF-ISOLATION

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is required to self-isolate at home, away from the public, for 14 days.

Anyone who travels to Nova Scotia from outside the Atlantic region is required to self-isolate for 14 days and must fill out a self-declaration form before coming to the province.

However, the province has eased some self-isolation requirements for out-of-province rotational workers.

Residents of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador are not required to self-isolate when travelling to Nova Scotia, but they must be prepared to provide proof of their place of residency at provincial borders.

Visitors from outside the Atlantic region who have already self-isolated in another Atlantic province for 14 days may travel to Nova Scotia without having to self-isolate again.

The provincial state of emergency, which was first declared on March 22, has been extended to Oct. 4.